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The iPhone Was Designed in California and the Moto X Was Born in the USA: Should We Care?


Apple and Motorola are appealing to our sense of patriotism, which has this writer scratching his head.

On my person right now, I have a Fuji camera made in Japan, New Balance sneakers made in Indonesia, and Orbit gum from Canada.

I'd take my pants off and check where they came from, but I don't want to create an HR problem here at Minyanville's global headquarters.

So does "Made in America" matter any more?

I would say no, judging by America's collective addiction (present company included) to cheap goods produced in markets like China.

Nonetheless, the two most dominant technology companies on planet Earth -- Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) -- have been making efforts at reflecting some level of patriotism.

The back of my iPhone says "Designed by Apple in California" -- a phrase the company considers a signature.

And in fact, the company recently released a 60-second commercial under that name, in which it outlines its design manifesto:

The commercial bombed. Our friends over at Bloomberg reported that this ad scored very poorly in terms of effectiveness -- the worst of 26 Apple TV ads aired over the past year, and actually below the industry average.

It's not hard to see why. The ad is sanctimonious and braggadocious.

As a comparison, take a look at what I would consider two of Apple's best ads.

There's the iPhone 4 FaceTime commercial, which is off-the-charts sentimental (I found the soldier looking at the sonogram to be a cheap shot), but amazingly effective because it showed what FaceTime can do while tugging at our heartstrings:

And then there's the older ad from the Think Different campaign entitled "The Architect":

Featuring Danish artist Ingvar Cronhammar, this unique commercial accomplished two things that set it apart from other tech companies: 1) It associated Apple with the beauty and aspirations of true creativity, and 2) It screamed out that Apple really was a different company.

But "Designed in California"?

Meh. That piece doesn't really stand out from the typical lifestyle-based advertising we see on TV today.

The fact that Apple products are designed in California seems completely immaterial.

Apple products are special because the company's designers actually care about making something different and interesting.

Why should the location matter to consumers, as long as the product itself is awesome?

In fact, merely bringing up the fact that Apple products are designed in California forces me to think about the other location-based phrase on my iPhone: assembled in China.

And that makes the whole "designed in California" thing look like a diversion from some of the unpleasantries involved in manufacturing devices overseas.

Now I'm sure none of this was missed by the bigwigs at Google's Motorola unit, which unveiled its Moto X phone yesterday on the Fourth of July with this message appearing on the information sign-up page:

"Designed by You" means what it says: customization options.

According to a report from ABC News, buyers will be able to choose colors for the phone's casing and trim, make a personal engraving on the back, and upload a photo in advance to serve as the wallpaper. That doesn't seem terribly interesting.

But using the word "designed" in conjunction wtih "Assembled in the USA" -- Texas specifically -- is interesting because it's a dig at Apple, which has had plenty of fun in advertising at the expense of another tech giant, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), which was viciously mocked in the "Get a Mac" commercials:

And here's the rest of Motorola's message from the sign-up page, where the company really drills it down:

The first smartphone designed, engineered, and assembled in the USA is coming.

It's also the first smartphone that you can design yourself. Because today you should have the freedom to design the things in your life to be as unique as you are.

And this is just the beginning. By the end of the summer we expect there to be more than 2000 new employees in Ft. Worth, TX, working to make all of this possible. Imagine what else you can do when you have the world's best design, engineering, and manufacturing talent located here in the USA.

I admit, my first reaction was "Ooh! more jobs for robots!"

But over 2000 new employees?

That's more than I imagined, and maybe to some people makes up for the massive layoffs the Motorola unit suffered in 2012, not that many consumers will care.

Nonetheless, Google/Motorola are taking an interesting marketing angle here, but they can't take it too far.

Plenty of makers of Google Android phones use the same Chinese contract manufacturer as Apple -- Foxconn.

And then there's this little tidbit from Google's 2012 10-K filing, filed in January of this year.

Our Motorola business also has facilities outside the US, and nearly all of our Motorola products (other than some prototypes) are manufactured outside the US, primarily in China, Taiwan, and Brazil.

So unless they're getting ready to move all manufacturing to the US, it's a little soon to get uppity on this issue.

(See also: Apple, Lenovo, and Google Are Bringing Production Back to the US, but Should We Celebrate?)

Twitter: @Minyanville

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